Setting Boundaries for Mental Health – Examples of healthy boundaries, boundaries in relationships, different types of boundaries and how to set healthy boundaries for mental health.
If you are a highly sensitive empath, you might struggle with setting boundaries for mental health. You may have grown up being keenly aware of other people’s feelings and needs, with a strong urge to please people.
At the very least, you want to be a good sport and not ‘rock the boat’.
Setting healthy boundaries in relationships may not have been modeled by the adults around you. Equally, your early attempts to set healthy boundaries for mental health may have had mixed results.
Perhaps you have tried setting healthy boundaries by speaking up for your feelings and needs, only to overshoot the mark and be perceived as aggressive or critical?
Or perhaps you practised setting healthy boundaries for mental health with ‘unsafe’ people, i.e. people who did not really care about your feelings and needs, or about improving your relationship?
If you have ever had negative feedback from setting boundaries for mental health, this article will help you regain your confidence.
It will also give 3 examples of different types of boundaries in everyday life, as well as how to set healthy boundaries for mental health without feeling guilty.
Different Types of Boundaries
Boundaries in relationships and work
Here are three examples of different types of boundaries in relationships and work that I have tried to maintain this week.
I include below how I set boundaries and the result, i.e. whether the outcome of setting boundaries was positive or negative.
Setting Boundaries for Mental Health Example 1:
A good friend asked to work with me 1-2-1
A lovely friend who works in a similar field to me emailed to ask if she could become a client in my next intake. I replied to say no and explain that, as my work has a therapeutic aspect, I have always kept my friendships and client work separate since I started in 2009.
The result? A quick reply from her to say she completely understood and that she thought this boundary was “quite cool actually” and it would still be lovely to chat. So, in this example of setting boundaries, the outcome was positive and my boundary was understood, accepted and respected.
A point to remember here is that setting boundaries in relationships, with clear communication, can actually improve and deepen a relationship, not harm it. By expressing you feelings and needs in relationship, by setting boundaries, you give the other person permission to express their feelings and needs, and to set boundaries too.
Setting Boundaries for Mental Health Example 2:
Notification intrusions during time off
A college I am training with has started occasionally sending WhatsApp messages instead of the usual email, and has suggested that some other course-related communication switches to mobile.
One of my boundaries for mental health is that all communication about any work-related matters goes via my work email. This personal and professional boundary means that, when I’m away from my laptop – i.e. having a day off or roaming the countryside with my dog – WhatsApp notifications or mobile calls do not intrude into my time out. I am able to return to work feeling completely refreshed.
Even though I have explained before, I explained to the administrator that I’d be very grateful if all course-related communication could stay via email and Zoom / Skype.
The result? A quick email reply from the college to say that it was “no problem at all” and a suggestion of the next steps to take by email. So again, in this example of setting boundaries, the outcome was positive and my boundary was understood, accepted and respected.
A point to remember here is that sometimes you will have to communicate your boundaries more than once, in different ways and to different people. It doesn’t mean you are being unreasonable. If you persist, you may be surprised that most people actually do understand and it’s easy for them to help.
Setting Boundaries for Mental Health Example 3:
People pleasing and giving too much to soon
A gas installer who is organising a gas connection to an old house we are renovating asked me to send him our official documents, so he can forward them to the gas company for approval.
After sending everything to him, he also asked photos of the first page of our passports too. In my rush to keep him happy, I sent these off into cyberspace, only afterwards to wish I’d been more cautious.
That night I felt anxious: I should have sent them direct to the gas company instead of someone I barely know.
The next day I sent a follow up text to asked him to delete his copies. I haven’t heard back yet but I could see he had already deleted his copy from WhatsApp. So, in this example of setting boundaries, the outcome is unknown but I do feel less anxious for at least having asked for my boundary to be respected, even if it was shutting the gate after the horse had bolted.
A point to remember here is that you will not always get the exact result that you want, but most times you will feel a lot better after the simple act of communicating your boundaries. Setting boundaries for mental health takes practice: if you can start with the small things, you can work up to more important matters. Try not to over-ride any anxious feelings to people-please.
When to start setting boundaries for mental health
The process of setting boundaries for mental health is different for everyone, but I do believe that being in tune with your body sensations and emotions is important.
You intuition or gut feeling depends on your being able to understand what your body and feelings are trying to tell you, moment to moment.
For me, when a boundary has been crossed, I feel a tightening and contraction in my heart chakra area. I also feel more anxious and out of control. This anxiety might, in extreme cases, lead to worry at night and sleeplessness.
I have learnt to trust that, when my feelings and body send me these signals, I need to set boundaries for mental health. Though setting boundaries for mental health can still be nerve-wracking, those feelings are short-term compared to the long term effects of not setting boundaries.
How to set boundaries for mental health
Here are some things to help you have confidence when setting boundaries for mental health
- Your personal and professional boundaries are unique to you. If other people do not share the same feelings and needs, it does not mean you are wrong to try to set boundaries for mental health reasons. To reduce your feelings of guilt and shame, make sure you keep your inner critic at bay and be compassionate with yourself. Remember that often what feels like a big deal to you is often no extra effort on the part of the person you are asking for help from.
- Notice the sensations of your body, especially anxiety levels. These can be signals to let you know when boundaries are being overstepped and that you need to communicate to set boundaries for mental health. Setting boundaries for mental health can bring feelings of relief, and should be done sooner rather than later. Don’t ignore or override the sensations.
- Setting boundaries for mental health takes practice. Start with the small things and work your way up to more serious matters. Accept that sometimes you will communicate clumsily or not be understood immediately. That’s okay. Don’t give up.
- Focus on your feelings and needs in communication, not on what the other person has done wrong. Don’t be afraid to ask for things that way you would like them and explain your reasons why. People often soften when they understand where you are coming from and are more open to helping.
- You may not always get what you want but try to see setting boundaries for mental health as a muscle. The more practice you do, the less anxious setting boundaries will make you feel. You will also start to feel more confident setting boundaries for mental health when you get a few small successes under your belt. Every time you communicate your feelings and needs, you grow.
Copyright Amy Garner 2021. See my Copyright Notice and Disclaimer.
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